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Symptoms and treatment

An adenoma is a benign tumor that has a glandular origin. An adenoma may form in a similar way to a malignant or cancerous tumor. A major difference between malignant tumors and adenomas is that adenomas do not metastasize or spread to other organs or tissues. Sometimes, however, adenomas develop into malignancies.

Epithelial cells that are used for secretion make up specific parts of the body referred to as glands. Glands have the job of forming a number of substances in the body including sweat, saliva, breast milk, mucous and hormones. An adenoma can form from just about any glandular cell in the body.

Though it is possible for some adenomas to develop into cancerous tumors, having an adenoma is not usually a predisposition to the development of a malignancy. Most adenomas remain benign and do not form into cancers. However, colon and rectal cancers may begin as adenomas.


Adenomas are diagnosed using a variety of techniques, including the collection of blood and urine samples, ultrasound imaging, computed tomography (CT) scanning, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Biopsies are typically employed to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant.


Treatment usually involves removal of the adenoma, although medication may be used to treat symptoms as well.

Pituitary Adenoma and Microadenoma

Pituitary adenomas typically present during early adulthood, equally affecting males and females. There are no outstanding reported risk factors. The clinical presentation of pituitary adenoma varies depending on the location and severity of the tumor.


Pituitary adenomas are further differentiated by size. Microadenomas have little impact on the visual system or gland function and are defined as intrasellar adenomas that measure up to one centimeter. Macroadenomas present with mass effect symptoms such as headaches and measure larger than one centimeter.

Types of pituitary microadenomas:

  • Incidentalomas usually have no associated symptoms. They are ordinarily found in people who present for other reasons (e.g., headaches).
  • Prolactinomas may be asymptomatic if prolactin levels are only slightly elevated. In women, hyperprolactinemia may cause amenorrhea, or infertility. In men, erectile dysfunction and decreased libido may occur. Gynecomastia may also develop.
  • ACTH-secreting adenomas cause Cushing's disease.
  • Growth-hormone-secreting adenomas cause acromegaly.
  • TSH-secreting adenomas are a very rare cause of hyperthyroidism.
  • Gonadotropin-secreting adenomas have been reported, though the frequency is unknown.
  • Women may present with amenorrhea.


There are effective drug treatments, namely Dostinex (cabergoline), which is a long-acting drug and can be taken once or twice a week. Dostinex causes fewer side effects than other drugs, however it is more expensive. Some studies have shown that Dostinex may be more effective in reducing tumor size than some other drugs, but it's not a cure.

By Kellen Baxter

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